Dubai: There was time when Indian expat Anis Sajan, fondly known as the ‘Shattaf Man’, used to do the rounds of shops in Dubai as salesman trying to sell shattaf, a hand-held spray for washing oneself after attending the call of nature.
Back in the day, in the early 90s, he would head to Deira, the hub for sanitary ware products in Dubai, to sell to the traders. A shop owner once asked Sajan to leave the store and not disturb him. After Sajan developed his niche and grew his brand, the same owner invited him to the shop to discuss doing business together.
Today, Sajan is managing director of Danube Group, one of the biggest conglomerates in the UAE with a turnover of $1.3 billion (around Dh4.78 billion) in 2019, the firm’s website says. Sajan, from India’s business capital Mumbai, credits his rise to the humble shattaf, a must-have bathroom fixture in the Gulf region. “It is only because of this product, shattaf, that I got popular,” he said.
‘Shattaf is a basic necessity’
Sajan is not embarrassed to be called the ‘Shattaf Man’. “The shattaf is a basic necessity in the Arab and Asian cultures. Every household in these countries ensures that the first thing they install is a shattaf.” He had realised the importance of shattaf while on a trip to Europe, where toilet paper takes the place of shattaf in washrooms. “Using toilet paper is not common in Asian culture, and most people get constipated when they do not find a shattaf in the toilet,” Sajan said with a smile.
Once a door-to-door shattaf salesman, Sajan now leads the entire Milano sanitary ware division at Danube. His journey began in 1992, when his brother Rizwan Sajan was focusing on developing the timber and building materials division of Danube. The latter asked Sajan to start something on his own and he took keen interest in venturing into the sanitary segment.
Travel shattaf kit
Sajan believes shattaf is the main product of his portfolio and was the turning point of his career. Initially, Sajan used to buy the products through an agent. Now, he procures exclusively customised designs and sells in the region.
Sajan said he was the first person to invent the ‘travel shattaf kit’, which travellers pack along with their make-up or shaving kit just like an essential. He said that he was initially selling 5,000 shattaf pieces per month but the number has increased close to 70,000 pieces per month. Sajan said that his ‘shattafs’ are very popular in Gulf, Middle East, India and Pakistan. He looks forward to selling shattaf in the European market and eventually remove the concept of toilet paper. He is also keen to start a manufacturing unit of shattaf in UAE in the near future.